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Showing posts from 2018

Review of DNA by University of Northampton BA Actors at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate, London

The final year performances of BA Actors this year upped sticks and headed away from their Northampton Royal territory and gathered to show their skills in London.

The first of the three shows being performed was Dennis Kelly's DNA, a play which I saw performed on the Royal stage itself four years ago. I enjoyed it for its dark mysterious nature and was looking forward to seeing a different interpretation of the show. It tells the tale of a group of youngsters who do something really bad, and proceed to attempt to cover it up, resulting in the real bad, well, getting more bad. It's dark yes, but also, very funny at times.

It opens with a looming movement piece of theatre, which I always love and this was no different for me, brooding and sinister. It's quite a long opening, which perhaps, in the end, becomes too long, but it's a fabulous piece of theatre for me. It set's the scene very well for Kelly's dark piece to unfold and in the hands of these, about to gr…

Flash Festival 2018: Persecuted by United-Force Theatre Company at Hazelrigg House, Northampton

It's perhaps a shame that the major talking point after United-Force Theatre Company's production of Persecuted is its final scene, and more so over the sheer realism of it, rather than anything directly related to the acting and writing of it. The shame is that it overshadows what is quite a brilliant piece of theatre in its own right, well constructed and superbly acted by the trio in the group, Alexander Forrester-Coles, Chris Tyler and Radostin Radev.

The date is 11th May 2005 and the Iraq War is no longer having the initial success that it had after destroying Sadam Hussain's regime. In a camp in Basra, Mohammed bin Osama bin Laden (Radostin Radev) is captured and under interrogation by commander James Farrell (Alexander Forrester-Coles), the good cop of the story, and Dan (Chris Tyler),  a Lieutenant, very much of the bad cop variety.

It's an ugly, but also a very vivid tale, claustrophobic and always intimidating. When the actors are not churning through the int…

Flash Festival 2018: An Error In The Melody by Carousel Theatre Company at Hazelrigg House, Northampton

At the centre of Carousel Theatre's An Error in the Melody is an intriguing character, performed by the groups solo performer, Amelia Renard. She plays, with some skill, Leonie Owens, a composer of immense skill herself, well, in her head in any case.

With shades of Glorious! The true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, which I have also seen this year, Owens just wants to perform and absorb the love of an audience, despite the fact that her skills mostly just lie within her head. Owens perhaps isn't anywhere near as nice a character as Foster Jenkins though, and when the tide turns against her, she really is quite nasty, and definitely very cold.

The dislike of the character though isn't the biggest problem with An Error in the Melody, it's more that it is a very insubstantial piece. Two very long scenes in this play are just so lightweight, the opening where she tidies her shelves, mostly with her back to the audience, and then later another scene similar in style. It…

Review of The Pillowman at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

The Pillowman sounds such a friendly title, and to be fair, his story is one of the lighter aspects of Martin McDonagh's script. It still involves dead children though, if you want to get a clear vision of how dark this play is.

Set in a police state of the future, Katurian (Toby Pugh) is taken in for the content of his often violent stories and a similarity to a spate of recent child killings. Here in detention cell 13, his police captors, Tupolski (Adrian Wyman) and Ariel (Steve While) play good cop, bad cop while holding over the threat of violence against Katurian's mentally disabled brother Michal (Patrick Morgan), being held in another cell.

The Pillowman is clearly a very warped story, with the blackest of black comedy, and often also very offensive with it's racial stereotyping and disability. In fact, it is no surprise that a couple left in the interval, as I would happily admit that this play is far from everyone. I like a good black comedy though, and lifting an …

Review of Education, Education, Education at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Today I have been attending my new school, Wordsworth Comprehensive, and the teachers are a really bizarre bunch.

Miss Turner (Kerry Lovell) was a little scary, but really rather sexy with it as well. She really is gorgeous to look at and stirs some odd emotions and fings in me. Can get awkward sometimes, but the desk helps. She really is brill at dancing like crazy in high heels as well, not that I was looking through the staff room window at her, or anything.

Headmaster Mr Mills (Tom England) is making all the baby-faced boys jealous with his exceptional growth on his chin and confused everyone with his real odd accent. A rumour going around school is he can put an immense amount of sand in a mug. Why, though, it is hard to fathom, and it's a weird skill to have really.

Talking of accents, the other new guy Tobias (James Newton) was sporting another odd accent as well, and randomly talking to people in the assembly, somehow he is able to freeze and control the other staff and p…

Review of The Band at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

It is fairly safe to say that I am not, on paper, in the optimum target audience of this new musical, The Band by Tim Firth. It revolves very much around a group of girls, then ladies, who grow up through their love of a boy band, "the boys". However, for those who have seen the work of Tim Firth before, you will know that he has a knack for making all things accessible but also extremely touching and funny as well. This is why The Band actually becomes a show for everyone.

For those unaware, this unnamed group in the show, just happen to perform songs by Take That, and there are also five of them, however, for those expecting a history of that group, you will be disappointed to find, that is your lot pretty much in the Take That area, they don't get a name check at any point in the show. This show actually follows a fictional fan base, from their poster strewn walls of their teenage bedrooms, and to their lives, and the tribulations that go with it, of 25 years later.

Review of Crimes Under The Sun at The Core, Corby

It is safe to say that there have been a lot of Agatha Christie spoofs kicking around over the years, they are ripe material to plunder, and often feeling as if the original author was even sending them up at times as well. So, to discover another one on stage at The Core Theatre in Corby is no surprise.

New Old Fiends' Crimes Under the Sun is a patch above many of them, a speedy, witty and genuinely ingenious take on a Poirot influenced case (no prizes for guessing Evil Under the Sun). As our lead, we have a curiously Belgian detective Artemis Arinae, Poirot in all but name, and more specifically gender (it's the first thing I noticed about her, to steal a joke). The show opens relatively badly, with a rather long introduction from our detective played by Jill Myers. It is the only downside of the evening, as once the stage is full of the quite brilliant collection of characters, this show whips along with an amazing intensity.

The characters created in Crimes Under the Sun …

Flash Festival 2018: Out Of Shot by Periscope Theatre at Castle Hill, Northampton

In April this year, the first woman was convicted following a new domestic violence law introduction, and it couldn't, therefore, have been more timely to have seen this devastating performance from Periscope Theatre. As although at first, preconceptions suggest we are watching a man's abuse of a woman, it quickly transpires that Out Of Shot has tipped the scales in the opposite direction.

What flagged it up for me, and probably for many in the audience, was a burn from an iron. Innocent enough, but enough to bring to my mind that we were to see the less acknowledged side of domestic abuse. From this moment, Out Of Shot began to turn into an extremely intimidating piece of drama, tense and disturbing. At the helm was a tremendous and extremely scary performance from Grace Stewart Hogg as Siena. Hogg was simply incredible spinning the innocence and sweet nature with a heavy suggestion of being the victim in the police interview scenes, and turning that on the head with the priv…

Review of Art at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

As the audience arrives for Art, they are presented high on the stage with the back of a painting. On closer inspection, it has none of the labels or stamps that art buffs like them to have, to form a quality provenance for the future. The back of this artwork is indeed a blank canvas (five feet by four). Turns out, when we finally see the front of it, it is also a blank canvas, but don't let Serge (Nigel Havers) hear you say that.

Yasmina Reza's script (translated from the original French by Christopher Hampton) is razor sharp, a joyous rollercoaster of pace, wit and verbal hostility, showing no signs of ageing after 20 years. This is a sparring match, where words are the punches, with just one moment of physical blows in the swift 80 minutes runtime. It's a tale about friendship, which uses a "white" painting as it's backdrop, and the way friendships can collapse over the most ridiculous reasons.

Not to say, someone spending £200,000 on a white painting is…

Flash Festival 2018: Static by EVE Ensemble at St Peter's Church, Northampton

I was just short of the right age to witness raving first hand in 1990, and my sheltered life would probably have resulted in my missing it anyway. However, perhaps based on Static from the quintuple of lady performers in EVE Ensemble, it was perhaps a lucky escape.

While they are clearly having immense fun in their raving, brilliantly recreated in two scenes in this production, things turn quickly into a mess, as Dani (Kate Morgan-Jones) decides that a bit of dealing will help the bank balance. So recruiting her mates, including the new girl, the posh and very innocent Emma (Ellen Tritton), they set about distributing the merchandise. This sequence includes trying to sell the gear to us the audience in a nicely worked scene, and also with the performers dealing with different replies, one of which included Tritton smoothly dealing with, brilliantly in character, with a specific request from one audience member. Neat work!

Static is a bit like an all-girl Trainspotting, fun and enter…

Review of Les Misérables: School Edition (NMTC Youth Society) at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

From my four years or so of watching theatre in Northampton, there is one thing beyond the huge professional shows that I see touring, that I always enjoy so much more (despite the occasional dodginess of the quality), and that is youth theatre. For me in my heart, it adds something special, here we have the often maligned young of today, getting out there and doing something truly fulfilling. Here though, with the debut of the newly formed Youth Society, spinning off from the adult Northampton Musical Theatre Company, we have something also which goes beyond enthusiasm of the young to create a really special piece of theatre.

Les Misérables is in the top three of musicals for me, I love its huge numbers, I connect to its story, and it has some extremely strong characters, for me, it just works. Therefore, you could say that I would have an immediate bias towards this show, however, I do feel protective of it as well, so, it needs to be done right. However, I have nothing to worry abo…

Review of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde at Hackleton Village Hall, Hackleton

In pursuit of even more theatre, I ventured out to Hackleton to experience theatre company Group Eight for the first time, and their version of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (adapted here by Noah Smith).

The first observation, and not from a production point, is how neat this adaptation of the story is by Noah Smith. It keeps the mysterious world of Dr Jekyll and his experimental attempts of unlocking his dark side but also fleshes out the world around him. We have two incorporated narrators, Shelly and Stoker (no prizes for guessing where those names came from, and simply Maid and Butler in the original Smith version), who give us locations and inner thoughts as well as scene changing. They are very much the unnamed narrator of the original embodied. Also while we have the standard "Three Musketeers" of Lanyon, Utterson, and Jekyll himself, the character of Enfield is fleshed out far beyond the original, and with his new lady, Helen …

Flash Festival 2018: Something Human by Incubus Theatre at St Peter's Church, Northampton

While Something Human from Incubus Theatre wasn't the best of the shows during the Flash Festival 2018 (but it wasn't anywhere near the worst), it had perhaps the award of the most discussion between myself and companion of the week, fellow blogger The Real Chrisparkle.

Something Human weaves a confusing web of a story, that often offers questions in the head rather than answers. Centred around a mundane office, a cleaner (Lori Heather) cleans, a manager (Jason Pile) manages, and a newly appointed PA (Anya Gallagher) PA's. Wandering into the mix is a mother (Emilia Owen), not mothering at present, as she is seeking her lost daughter.

What slowly then becomes exposed is the possibility that all of these people are criminals, the cleaner cleans up bodies of those she has slaughtered, the manager has interesting bedroom activities, the PA we discover is a paedophile, and could that mother have truly killed her daughter?
I won't pretend that I fully understood the story So…